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"HONGZ" stands for HO scale, N scale, G scale, and Z scale.

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Hi everyone...I have my dads HO Lionel set from the early 60s (1960 I think).  It hasn't really run since the 70's.  I had it "repaired" in the early 90's (they replaced the motor) but it still didn't run like I remember it as a kid.  So 25 years after a repair I am still trying to get it to work.

Anyway, even though I run O scale 2 rail now, (I have a ton of HO equipment from my youth still), I would like to get this Lionel engine running put around the Christmas tree or run occasionally.  Attached are some pics...if you need more let me know. 

I just cleaned and lubed the engine gears, but did not open the motor.  I tested the engine on a 3 foot piece of test tries to run and it runs maybe 1 out of 10...spits and sputters in reverse and I have to help it to move forward.  It was running a little better after a few minutes.    Any suggestions on what to look at or try?  I have thought about remotoring it with something more modern...any suggestions on what motor would work well within this frame?  The wires out the back were for the whistling tender (doesn't whistle anymore).  Not many if anyone works on vintage Lionel anymore that I can find.  Any help would be appreciated.  Thanks AndyIMG_20220126_115002808IMG_20220126_114208540IMG_20220126_114200919IMG_20220126_114148249IMG_20220126_120343542IMG_20220126_120404190


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First: Try hooking power directly to the motor.  That might eliminate the motor as a problem.

Second: The wheels appear to be in need of a serious cleaning and probably the contact wiper also.


Thanks Rusty...Yeah I doubt the wheels have ever been cleaned...good call!

OK, so I took your advice and here are the videos to prove it.   You can see just the motor runs steady and fine although a little noisy.  With the drive gear hesitates and doesn't really like it!

I am assuming the motor is fine and something is binding the drive gear?

Thanks for your help so far.

An educated guess is in the smoke unit piston in the cylinder is causing the problem. Either the casting has deformed with age, the piston cylinder has expanded, or the old smoke fluid that has seeped down there and gunked up like tar over the years. Disconnect the drive rod with the piston and see how it runs then. Don't open the motor, permanent damage will result.

All great ideas...unfortunately, I have run into a snag...motor runs good by itself, but as soon as I put install it and tighten the screw it now shorts out.  It looks like it has some sort of shim to keep the engine from touching the frame (see picture), but it is touching somewhere and shorting out.  I have no idea where these were before...but the way it was running before I almost think the motor was bouncing and shorting out before.  The shims don't look original and don't seem thick enough to do the job.  Any ideas on what to put under the engine to insulate it from the frame?  Thanks again!



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@Chuck Sartor  Thanks Chuck...I did some more investigating and I think the shims go in the back of the motor.  Since it was remotored back in the 90's, no idea if this was the correct motor or not...but I think this levels it a little.  While I was moving the engine around a wire broke a solder joint from the motor to the center solder joint "junction".  Just for fun, I powered it and the motor worked again.  The engine is running...seems to run better in reverse than forward, but I can work with that.  Now the headlight isn't working.

I may rewire everything eventually.  Thoughts? 

Here is a picture of the wire that broke and where it was attached when it broke.  Thanks guys!



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An educated guess is in the smoke unit piston in the cylinder is causing the problem. Either the casting has deformed with age, the piston cylinder has expanded, or the old smoke fluid that has seeped down there and gunked up like tar over the years. Disconnect the drive rod with the piston and see how it runs then. Don't open the motor, permanent damage will result.

Hi Chuck, why can't you open the motor? what if brushes and springs need replacing? I had to replace springs a few years back and cleaned, motor runs pretty good.

Thanks Mark

You can replace the brushes and springs as long as the armature is not removed. The reason is on the type of magnets Lionel used as soon as the magnetic flux between the magnet poles is broken, the magnet looses about 40% of it's power. When reassembled the motor will run faster, Have less torque, and overheat. The magnet in the motor was magnetized after being assembled. In the '60's Lionel has a service tool available to repairmen to re-magnatize the assembled motor. Never use pulse power with these motors.

@Secarider  I assume you have an old Lionel HO Steam engine?  Can you show me how it is wired.  I know mine is wrong.

I had an epiphany moment.  The wire that came loose was shorting out somehow.  The reason the engine is working is because I just was wiring the leads (that went to the whistling tender) that are connected to each side of the motor.  By doing that I am bypassing how it works in reality.  It does not work on the track.  Still shorts out.  So I would like to rewire it.

Can someone show me or explain to me how this is supposed to be wired?  Attached are pics how it is currently wired.

On the front of the engine there are 3 to the light, and 2 to the smokestack--2 of those wires go to the wheel pickups--1 goes to the right side of the motor.  The left side of the motor came loose, but was connected to the pickups junction. I am assuming, the wire without insulation is the ground goes from the right side of the motor to the smokestack.  Does that all seem correct? 



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Last edited by roll_the_dice

OK, I never really worked on engines before.  I'd build freight kits and such, but never engines.  So be kind when you read the newbie mistakes I made.   When I was younger I didn't have the confidence to take engines I have gotten older...not so much.  Not much worse can happen to it than it not I'll try things, plus this internet thing is pretty fantastic for DIY/repair projects.

So I tried a few things today to no avail...until I googled wiring for DC motors.  I found a video of someone building a Bowser HO steam Kit.  I watched some of it and as I was watching...he mentioned the insulated wheels!  DOH...When I took it apart yesterday to clean and lube things, I didn't put the insulated wheels back on the correct I took it apart again and put all 3 insulated wheels on the same side...still didn't work...because I had them on the wrong side again!

Anyway, I am happy to say, I got it running.  I still need to solder that broken wire back on...then will put the shell on and take it for a real spin and get a video to share!  So looking forward to seeing her pull again!

Last edited by roll_the_dice

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